Aqua-cremation offered as eco-friendly way to go

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PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — When it’s time to shuffle off this mortal coil, you may want to leave in a more environmentally friendly way.

Aqua-cremation uses a water-based process called alkaline hydrolysis, which speeds up the body’s natural decomposition after death.

Deon Strommer, the owner of First Call Mortuary Services in Portland, said the process uses less water than people use daily and has one-tenth the carbon footprint of flame cremation.

And, he said, the process was patented in 1888.

“We use water,” Strommer told KOIN 6 News, “and with water, alkalinity and temperature, the flow of the water over the body we’re able to — same as flame cremation — reduce the body down to calcium phosphate, which is just the bones.”

The process uses 80 to 100 gallons of water plus potassium hydroxide, “which the pioneers used to call potash.”

Deon Strommer, the owner of First Call Mortuary Services in Portland, shows the inside of an aqua cremation device, April 23, 2018 (KOIN)

Strommer said flame crematories use a lot of fuel. “I heard one statistic that you could heat a home in -15 degree weather for 32 days, you use the same amount of gas to do one cremation on a 175-pound person.”

Another concern with flame cremations, he said, is the mercury in people’s fillings. The mercury gets into the air, then falls into the streams and may affect fish. The DEQ, he said, may raise rates to crematories and Gov. Brown wants all incinerator facilities be looked at in the state, “and crematories are one of those.”

Families of the departed still receive cremains — “they’re lighter in color” — but otherwise exactly the same as flame cremations.

Strommer said he offers the service to funeral homes. “I don’t serve the general public,” he said, “but I offer it to funeral homes who can offer this as another option in the death of a loved one.”

As the public is educated about it, they’ll ask more questions of funeral homes which will lead to increased acceptance. The cost is a little more than flame cremation, “but very reasonable for the eco side of it.”

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